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Film / Why Man Creates

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Why Man Creates is a short film (24 minutes) from 1968, directed by Saul Bass.

This film is a loose series of vignettes, only some of which deal with the idea of man's need to create. The first segment is "The Edifice", a short cartoon that in two minutes manages to tackle the whole history of the human race, symbolized as an ever-growing skyscraper. It's followed by "Fooling Around", a series of Clip-Art Animation gags. "The Process" is the first vignette that really deals with creation as an idea, featuring a sculptor struggling to fit blocks together into a larger shape; his task is complicated by the fact that the blocks can move on their own. "Judgment" shows a crowd of people reacting very unfavorably to...something. "A Parable" is just that, a parable about a misfit ping-pong ball that bounces higher than all the other balls at the ping-pong ball factory. "The Search" features brief interviews with several scientists, who describe the research they're doing in various fields. Finally there's "The Mark", in which Bass concludes that man creates in order to affirm his own existence.


Saul Bass was better known as a title designer for films, most famously designing the opening credits for Psycho. An edited version of this short ran on the very first episode of 60 Minutes. George Lucas worked as a cameraman on this film.


  • Art Shift: A cartoon, a Clip-Art Animation sequence, Stop Motion animation in "A Parable", and live action for the rest of the short.
  • Blade-of-Grass Cut: An extreme close-up of a dandelion, slowly shedding seeds.
  • Clip-Art Animation: Much of "Fooling Around" is this, as Bass films people and then uses the images for clip art gags. There's a clip of a woman dancing, bobbing her head frantically, only for the image to pause. A cartoon hand comes in from the top of the frame, pops open the top of the woman's skull, and throws in the ingredients of a cocktail.
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  • Individuality Is Illegal: In "A Parable" one ping-pong ball bounces quite a bit higher than all the other ping-pong balls. The free-spirited ping-pong ball is shunted aside and eventually chucked out of the factory.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: A montage of works of art featured in the last segment has the camera zooming in on each of them in turn.
  • Plunger Detonator: In "The Edifice" Alfred Nobel's invention of dynamite is shown by cartoon Alfred pushing a plunger detonator and blowing part of the building up.
  • Speaking Simlish: All the ping-pong balls crowding around the high-bouncing ball in "A Parable" are jabbering in Simlish.
  • Surreal Humor: Quite a bit of the film. One segment in "Fooling Around" has the "GO" and "STOP" signs at traffic crossings eventually instructing the people crossing the street to do calisthenics.
  • Talking Heads: "The Search" deals with science, and specifically interviews with three scientists—a nutritionist seeking to solve world hunger, a cancer researcher who hopes to cure cancer, and a physicist studying the origin of the universe. Then there is a faux-interview in which a scientist delivers some scripted dialogue about how his research has failed and he isn't sure what he'll do next.
  • Title Drop: In the last segment Bass ponders, "why does man create?"
  • The Unreveal: "Judgment" is a meditation on criticism of creative works. There's a crowd of people looking up at...something. Most of them are disapproving, thinking the whatever is objectionable or wrong or bad, although there are a few positive responses. We never see what the people are looking at.
  • Visual Pun: In "The Edifice", the Dark Ages are symbolized by the cartoon actually going dark.

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